The Second intifada erupted in September 2000. The Israeli army imposed a siege on the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority, dissecting the West Bank with hundreds of military checkpoints. As a result, Palestinian workers were unable to reach their workplaces in the West Bank; areas inside the Green Line were completely off limits. Almost overnight, thousands of Palestinian workers became jobless. The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (2002) put the rate of visible under-employment at 41.2%. With such alarming numbers, funders and local organizations began looking for ways to provide immediate income to unemployed breadwinners and for new skill-building programs that would increase the employability of workers in new fields. Architectural restoration provided an answer to both.
Restoration is a highly labour intensive activity based on the manual work of skilled and unskilled workers. What is more, restoration work is founded upon the use of local materials and locally produced architectural details, and not only provides onsite jobs for workers, but also generates income into Palestine’s economy. To this end, conservation has become a vehicle for change rather than an end goal, representing a shift that is spearheaded by RIWAQ’s vision and work, which recognizes the holistic aspirations of local communities in all of its restoration work.
RIWAQ’s job creation program is built around labour-intensive guidelines that minimize mechanized work, maximize the use of manual work, revive building related handicrafts, intensify the use of traditional details and enforce the use of domestic materials. As a result, our restoration budgets have a 55-60% labour component with the remaining 40% dedicated to materials; on average, 70% of these materials are sourced locally.
Each of RIWAQ’s projects includes an on-site training sessions where workers learn and refine their restoration skills, including traditional pointing, plastering, stone cutting and stone building; this supports long term employability, reinforces communities, and contributes to the local economy.
In average Riwaq renovates 6 to 8 historic buildings annually. Since 2001, Riwaq has renovated well-over 120 community centres through this program.